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By Virginia

As the Seattle market has tilted into the “only affordable for the fortunate few” range these last couple of years, city government has tried desperately to come up with a plan to immediately start providing more housing, both “affordable” and market-rate units.

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The acronym we’ve all been seeing in the news is HALA – which stands for Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda.

A few weeks ago Brennon Staley (email him), a senior urban planner at City of Seattle, came to our Windermere office to give us more details about the upzones that are in the works, and how the city sees the associated Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) as a flexible solution. Check out the HALA website FAQ for more info.

Here’s the gist: for new multi-family residential construction, developers have to either make a certain percentage of the units affordable to people making no more than 60% of the Seattle median income (in 2017 that 60% is about $40,000 for an individual or $57,000 for a family of 4) or contribute a certain dollar amount to the city’s Office of Housing fund, which the city will use to build affordable housing near transit centers or to help prevent displacement of lower income residents of the neighborhoods that are being developed.

We were cynical, expecting that most developers would contribute funds so that cheap housing could be built in poorer neighborhoods, rather than include lower priced (but similar sized) units in their new developments. This would have an obvious impact on the neighborhoods and their public schools, as they become increasingly stratified by income level.

It sounds like the city is trying to address this outcome on a number of fronts, and in the meantime has been moving forward with approval of the upzones since last November, from permitting additional stories in new high rises to changing almost all of South Park to “Residential Small Lot” zoning where you can have one house for every 2,000 s.f. of lot size!

Wondering how HALA will affect you? Contact me for more information.


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